Alabama Gov. Riley Gives Bad Marks to Claims Process; Says Mr. Feinberg “holds the future of all these small businesses in South Alabama in his hands”


We’ve noted before that the “roller coaster” claims process is a major cause of stress for Gulf residents, and now it seems at least one governor is noticing the trend.

Dan Murtaugh at Mobile’s Press-Register is reporting on Alabama Gov. Bob Riley’s growing frustration over the slowdown in claims payments. After meeting with fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg earlier in the week, Riley had “harsh words” for the claims process. Alabama, you may recall, was among the most assertive states in terms of both resident protest and official action – state officials filed a lawsuit right out of the gate, thus moving to the front of the payment line.

But that was then. This is now, and the Press-Register says: “… whenever claims are processed slowly, Riley said, leaders call a meeting to voice their complaints and payments are doled out more quickly. But soon after, the rate of payment slows again, until another meeting is called, according to Riley.” And so the cycle goes.

Riley had more blunt words: “I hope that Mr. Feinberg understands he holds the future of all these small businesses in South Alabama in his hands.”

Some of the recent claims-related stories are alarming in their illustration of the seemingly haphazard and random nature of payments. Gov. Riley, for example, “… told Feinberg about one claimant who presented all the required documentation and had gone the extra step of having it audited by a certified public accountant. The claims facility responded with a letter saying that only 2 percent to 10 percent of the claim would be paid, and only if the claimant, whom Riley did not name, agreed to take a final settlement and not sue BP.” No explanation was given for the reduced settlement offered, according to Riley, who described the situation as “an incredible injustice.”

The question is how much longer this “wearing down” of victims will continue, and unfortunately, you have to admit the strategy is still working for BP. Many top state-level officials, perhaps less experienced in such things as Alabama leaders, came out of the meeting quite optimistic. Now, we’ll await local news coverage about improved claims payments in some areas, then, of course, another drop-off will follow closely.

The Press-Register, citing the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, also noted that BP has paid Feinberg’s firm, Feinberg Rozen, LLP, $3.3 million for its work thus far – $850,000 per month.

The story is at, here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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